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TESTANT, whose fate is yet uncertain, will be convinced of the truth of this observation. It is thus a system becomes more absurd in the end, merely from its being reasonable and philosophical in the beginning.
To oppose the torrent of scholastic religion by such feeble maxims as these, that it is impossible for the same thing to be and not to be, that the whole is greater than a part, that two and three make five; is pretending to stop the ocean with a bull-rulh. Will you set up profane reason against sacred mystery? No punishment is great enough for your impiety. And the same fires which were kindled for heretics, will serve also for the destruction of philosophers.
Sect. XII. With regard to Doubt or Conviction.
We meet every day with people so sceptical with regard to history, that they assert it impossible for any nation ever to believe such absurd principles as those of Greek and EGYPTIAN paganism; and at the same time so dogmatical with regard to religion, that they think the same absurdities are to be found in no other communion. CAMBYSEs entertained like prejudices; and very impioully ridiculed, and even wounded, Apis, the great god of the EGYPTIANS, who appeared to his profane senses nothing but a large spotted bull. But HERODOTUS judicioully ascribes this fally of pallion to a real madness or disorder of the brain : Otherwise, says the historian, he never would have openly affronted any established worship. For on that head, continues he, every nation are best satisfied with their own, and think they have the advantage over every other nation.
It must be allowed, that the ROMAN CATHOLICS are a very learned feet; and that no one communion, but that of the church of ENGLAND, can dispute their being the most learned of all the Christian
churches ; Yet AVEROES, the famous ARABIAN, who, no doubt, had heard of the EGYPTIAN fuperftitions, declares, that, of all religions, the most absurd and nonsensical is that, whose votaries eat, after having created, their deity.
I believe, indeed, that there is no tenet in all pa. ganism, which would give so fair a scope to ridicule as this of the real presence: For it is so absurd, that it eludes the force of all argument. There are even some pleasant stories of that kind, which, though somewhat profane, are commonly told by the Catholics themselves. One day a priest, it is faid, gave inadyertently, instead of the facrament, a counter, which had by accident fallen among the holy wafers. The communicant waited patiently for some time, expecting it would dissolve on his tongue: But finding that it still remained entire, he took it off. I wish, cried he to the priest, you have not committed some mistakė: I wish you have not given me God the Father: He is so hard and tough there is no swallowing him,
A famous general, at that time in the MUSCOVITE service, having come to Paris for the recovery of his wounds, brought along with him a young TURK, whom he had taken prisoner. Some of the doctors of the SORBONNE (who are altogether as positive as the dervises of CONSTANTINOPLE) thinking it a pity that the poor Turk should be damned for want of instruction, solicited MUSTAPHA very hard to turn Christian, and promised him, for his encouragement, plenty of good wine in this world, and paradise in the next, These allurements were too powerful to be refifted; and therefore, haying been well instructed and catechized, he at last agreed to receive the facraments of baptism and the Lord's supper. The priest, however, to make every thing sure and folid, Itill continued his instructions, and began the next day with the usual question, How many Gods are there? None at all, replies BENEDICT; for that was Сс2
his new name. How! None at all! cries the priest. To be sure, said the honest profelyte. You have told me all along that there is but one God: And yesterday I eat him.
Such are the doctrines of our brethern the Catholics. But to these doctrines we are so accustomed, that we never wonder at them: Though in a future age, it will probably become difficult to persuade some nations, that any human, two-legged creature could ever embrace such principles. And it is a thousand to one, but these nations themselves shall have something full as absurd in their own creed, to which they will give a most implicit and most religious afsent.
I lodged once at París in the same hotel with an ambassador from Tunis, who, having passed some years at LONDON, was returning home that way. One day I observed his Moorish excellency diverting himself under the porch, with surveying the splendid equipages that drove along; when there chanced to pass that way fome Capucin friars, who had never seen a TURK; as he, on his part, though accustomed to the EUROPEAN dresses, had never seen the grotesque figure of a Capucin: And there is no expressing the mutual admiration with which they inspired each other. Had the chaplain of the embaffy entered into a dispute with these FRANCISCANS, their reciprocal surprize had been of the same nature. Thus all mankind stand staring at one another; and there is no beating it into their heads, that the turban of the AFRICAN is not just as good or as bad a fashion as the cowl of the EUROPEAN. He is a very honeft man, said the prince of Salles, speaking of DE RUYTER, It is a pity he were a Christian.
How can you worship leeks and onions? we shall suppose a SORBONNIST to fay to a priest of Sais. If we worship them, replies the latter; at least, we do not, at the same time, eat them. But what ftrange objects of adoration are cats and monkies? says the
learned doctor. They are at least as good as the relics or rotten bones of martyrs, answers his no less learned antagonist. Are you not mad, insists the Catholic, to cut one another's throat about the
prea ference of a cabbage or a cucumber? Yes, says the pagan; I allow it, if you will confess, that those are still madder, who fight about the preference among volumes of sophiftry, ten thousand of which are not equal in value to one cabbage or cucumber*,
Every by-ftander will easily judge (but unfortunately the by-standers are few), that, if nothing were requisite to establish any popular system, but exposing the absurdities of other systems, every votary of every superstition could give a fufficient reason for his blind and bigoted attachment to the principles in which he has been educated. But without fo extensive a knowledge, on which to ground this assurance (and perhaps, better without it), there is not wanting a sufficient stock of religious zeal and faith among mankind. DIODORUS Siculus† gives a remarkable instance to this purpose, of which he was himself an eye-witness. While Egypt lay under the greatest terror of the Roman name, a legionary soldier having inadvertently been guilty of the sacrilegious impiety of killing a cat, the whole people rose upon him with the utmost fury; and all the efforts of the prince were not able to save him. The fenate and people of Rome, I am persuaded, would not, then, have been so delicate with regard to their national deities. They very frankly, a little after that time, voted AUGUSTUS a place in the celestial mansions; and would have dethroned every god in heaven for his fake, had he seemed to delire it. Presens divus babibtur AUGUSTUS, says Horace. That is a very important point: And in other nations
* See NOTE (CCC).
+ Lib. i.
and other ages, the same circumstance has not been deemed altogether indifferent*.
Notwithstanding the fanctity of our holy religion, fays TULLYt, no crime is more common with us than facrilege: But was it ever heard of, that an EGYPTIAN violated the temple of a cat, an ibis, or a crocodile? There is no torture an EGYPTIAN would not undergo, says the same author in another place i rather than injure an ibis, an aspic, a cat, a dog, oř a crocodile. Thus it is ftrictly true what DRYDEN obferves,
« Of whatsoeler descent their godhead be,
ABSALOM AND ACHITOPHEL. Nay, the baser the materials are of which the divinity is composed, the greater devotion is he likely to excite in the breasts of his deluded votaries. They exult in their shame, and make a merit with their deity in braving for his fake all the ridicule and contumely of his enemies. Ten thousand Crusaders inlift themselves under the holy banners; and even openly triumph in those parts of their religion which their adversaries regard as the most reproachful.
There occurs, I own, a difficulty in the EGYPTIAN system of theology; as indeed, few systems of that kind are entirely free from difficulties. It is evident, from their method of propagation, that a couple of cats, in fifty years, would stock a whole kingdom; and if that religious veneration were still paid them, it would, in twenty 'more, not only be easier in EGYPT to find a god than a man, which PETRONIUS says was the case in some parts of ITALY; but the
gods When Louis the XIVth took on himself the protection of the Jesuits' College of CLERMONT, the society ordered the king's arms to be put up over the gate, and took down the cross, in order to make way for it: Which gave occafion to the following epigram;
Suftulit hinc Chrifti, pofuitque infignia Regis: Impia gens, alium nescit habere Deum. + De nat. Deor. l. i.
| Tufc. Queft. lib. v.